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Senator asks social networks, carriers to preserve evidence from Capitol riot

Facebook, Twitter and Parler are some of the companies under pressure.
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Members of the National Guard and the Washington D.C. police keep a small group of demonstrators away from the Capital after thousands of Donald Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol building following a "Stop the Steal" rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. The protesters stormed the historic building, breaking windows and clashing with police. Trump supporters had gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|January 9, 2021 2:30 PM

Tech companies are under pressure to support officials investigating the Capitol Hill riot. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia has sent letters to eleven tech companies urging them to preserve evidence linked to the mob that invaded the House and Senate. Most of them are social networks including Facebook, Gab, Parler, Signal, Telegram and Twitter. The requests also went out to Apple, Google as well as carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon (Engadget’s parent company).

In each case, Warner noted that the rioters went out of their way to record the event, whether it was taking photos, sending messages or even livestreaming their actions. That and related info like metadata and cloud backups could be “critical evidence” for the FBI and victim lawsuits, the senator said.

Warner didn’t give the companies a deadline for a response. Twitter declined to comment at this time, but a Facebook spokesperson told Engadget it was maintaining an “ongoing, proactive outreach to law enforcement” and was responding “quickly” to requests by deleting content, removing accounts and otherwise cooperating with investigations. We’ve also asked Apple for comment.

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This isn’t a legally binding request. It might also be difficult for some of the companies to comply. Messaging services like Signal and Telegram have end-to-end encryption that prevents the creators themselves from accessing chats, for instance.

Still, the tech firms might be compelled to respond. Warner is the new Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee — he could lead investigations and other actions in response to the Capitol breach.

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